Google is working on a competitor to chatbot-based messaging apps like Telegram and Kik: report

Google's Mountain View Office

Feeling pressure from companies like Facebook and China’s Tencent, Google plans to launch an all new messaging app, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Taking a page from dominant players like Kik and WeChat, the app will reportedly feature an emphasis on chatbots, programs that users can talk to within the app, and will leverage the company’s burgeoning expertise in artificial intelligence. The idea here is that the app’s chatbots will be able to call upon Google’s vast stores of data to answer questions and help users with a variety of tasks — Tencent, for instance, allows users to complete purchases, as well as book appointments and settle bills.

Google plans to build hundreds of these chatbots. A central algorithm will work to make sure the user is paired with the chatbot that is best able to assist them. However, it’s unclear when this service will launch, and whether Google plans to launch it as a new app or if the company will integrate the functionality into an existing offering like Hangouts.

As the WSJ notes, one of the challenges Google will have to overcome is the fact that people tend to gravitate to the apps their friends use. Hangouts, while well-regarded, hasn’t been a runway hit. Facebook Messenger became popular because there were already millions of users on Facebook, using the social network’s chat functionality before Messenger became a separate offering.

What is clear is that a lot of tech firms see chatbots as the future of messaging. Earlier in the week, Kik spent an undisclosed amount of money to acquire Blynk, a Toronto-based startup that makes a Tinder-like fashion app, to improve the functionality of one of its most popular fashion bots.

[source]The Wall Street Journal[/source]